Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Resolution on Love for Fellow Christians


WHEREAS, the Holy Scriptures acknowledge Christ as the head of His church; and
WHEREAS, His church encompasses all the peoples of the world who place their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; and
WHEREAS, God commands that His people love one another deeply (I Peter 4:8); and
WHEREAS, whoever does not love does not know God (I John 4:8); and
WHEREAS, Jesus Christ proclaimed that all persons will know that we are His disciples, by our love for one another (John 13:35);
Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-14, 2007, reaffirm our love for Christians of all denominations and our desire to cooperate with evangelicals around the world for the fulfillment of the Great Commission; and
Be it further RESOLVED, That we call upon our elected officials to lead us to love with not just words but with actions and in truth (I John 3:18); and
Be it finally RESOLVED, That we, the individual messengers of the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention, love each other so that we will be bound together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14).

Submitted to the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions Committee, Chairman Gerald Harris, on May 28, 2007, by Messenger Wade Burleson

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is It A Rebuke or A Response? The PC of the EC

Frank Page has spoken out about the New Baptist Covenant in this Baptist Press article

Page is quoted as saying,

"I will not be a part of any smokescreen leftwing liberal agenda that seeks to deny the greatest need in our world, that being that the lost be shown the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

It should go without saying that if the participants of the NBC deny the greatest need in our world is to be shown the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, then all of us should be troubled. However, when our church financed and dug a water well in the slums of Bangalore for the 10,000 outcasts last November, it was the Hindu mayor that helped us. He denies the need for the gospel, but we continue to share the good news with our Hindu friend, something he has not yet accepted or believed. But his denial of the gospel has not hindered us in building a relationship with the mayor, nor partnering with him to relieve some suffering in the slums of Bangalore.

I should soon have the opportunity to ask Frank about the NBC's alleged denial that the greatest need in our world is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have not personally heard Mr. Carter or Mr. Underwood say this, and from my understanding, more than a few of the African-American pastors on the program are some great gospel preachers, but if I were to attend the Atlanta convocation, I will definitely be on the alert regarding any denial that the world needs the gospel. I make it a practice not to take someone's word about another, but wait until I hear it for myself, and if I were to learn that a Baptist brother denies the world's need of Jesus Christ, I would be greatly grieved. But I'm not sure I couldn't partner with them to relieve some suffering in the world, just like we've partnered with the Hindu -- and of course, I would try to convert my Baptist brother to true Christianity. Heaven knows that my concern for the past two years is that the Southern Baptist Convention may be on the verge of putting tradition and religion above knowing Christ and believing His authoritative and sufficient Word.

That being said, it does seem to me that Dr. Page's comments, as delivered by Baptist Press, sound like they may have been written by someone other than Frank. They are not quite as irenic as his usual words. Those of us who have been in such positions as Frank know that, on occasion, denominational or state officials prepare statements and have the President sign it. That may or may not be what has happened here. Regardless, Frank probably saw the document and signed off on it. The language and timing sure sound like someone high up may be a little afraid that the the SBC may be perceived by the secular press as becoming soft on liberalism - someone who was deeply involved in the conflicts of decades past.

I really think that there may be some in established denominational positions that carry so much emotional baggage over past conflict in the SBC that it is difficult for them to even think in terms of a new paradigm. Sometimes the softness of denominational luxury causes one to lose sight of the rampant poverty, disease, and sickness in third world countries. Of course, that happens to those of us who are pastors as well, and that's one of the reasons I enjoy going to third world countries with our people -- it helps me keep perspective.

Finally, the Baptist Press article today reminds me that Southern Baptists should always be champions of freedom - including a free press. We must always be on guard against any SBC Executive Committee offical or employee using Baptist Press as a public relations tool. Baptist Press must be free and employees of Baptist Press should not take their orders from denominational executives. As it stands, the headline on the Baptist Press article with Page's remarks within the first hour of posting from Page Rebukes New Covenant to Page Responds to Carter. I'm wondering who put the first title up, and who called and requested the second?

Not that it makes much difference. We are all Baptists. And as I said in my earlier post, we should respect one another's opinion, and love each other, even when we disagree. I'm not sure where I stand on the New Baptist Covenant - it may end up being a smokescreen for liberal politics - but I'm not sure how much different that would be from a convention attaching herself to right wing politics.

Both bother me.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. PC in the title is 'Political Correctness.' EC in the title is the 'Executive Committee' of the SBC.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Respecting the Opinions of Others in the SBC

Eighty years ago this month, the Southern Baptist Convention convened to consider the adoption of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message. Some Southern Baptists thought the 1925 Confession to be too broad and moderate and believed it lacked the doctrinal preciseness required for the 'accountablity' a theologicl confession should bring to the convention. One particular messenger, a Rev. Stealey, had already been to the microphone to oppose the adoption of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message on the grounds it was too broad. E.Y. Mullins, Southern Baptist statesman, theologian and President of the SBC, stepped to the microphone to address the majority report for the adoption of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message (emphasis mine):

Members of the Convention:--

There is one thing that I believe a man can always do with safety, and without disappointment, and that is to appeal to the sense of fair play of a Baptist body. Now there are individual Baptists to whom you can not make that appeal, but there are now present a great body of Baptist people, and down in the bottom of their hearts there is honesty and there is common sense, and there is a spirit of fairness; and I come to you this afternoon simply and solely with a plea for Christ and his truth, for the work of his Kingdom, and for fair play with all the brethren.

I hope to make good the basis of that plea for fair play in a few moments, and I believe that this great body of splendid Baptists will respond to that appeal, and that is all I ask…

Now, brethren, I might say this, although I don’t suppose it is necessary to dwell on it, if we were to undertake to put our personal preferences in the doctrinal statement and insist upon our personal group preferences being put in the confession of faith, for Baptists covering eighteen states like this, where would we ‘fetch up at’ I can just think of things I know some men would put in. Some people would want to insist on a twenty-four hour day in Genesis, and some a period day. Some people would insist on post-millennialism, and some people on premillenialism. Some people would insist on church succession and some on anti-church succession. Some would insist on a universal church and some would oppose the universal church. Why, there is no end to where we would go… Brethren, I appeal to you for fair play. I don’t believe it is fair play for a group of brethren who are particularly committed to this standpoint, to come here and inist that everybody in the conference confrom to that standpoint.

We are all conscientious in our point of view. Brother Stealey says he is conscientious, so am I. God forbid that I shouldn’t be. We have all got conscience, and the Baptist conscience is a thing which a Baptist in England said has worn out more hammers than all other agencies in Great Britain. I believe that one things about the Baptist conscience is fair play. One thing about the Baptist conscience is straight-forwardness. One thing about the Baptist conscience is its willingness to recognize the opinions of other people and rights of other people, within gospel limits.

I can tell you, some of the finest and most orthodox men—I would name them, men like James P. Boyce, F.H. Kerfoot, James Orr, men like James Denney, and H.R. McIntosh, the Scotchman, Abraham Kuyper of Holland—all these men take a position of this kind,--men who are the greatest hope of orthodoxy on the other side of the ocean, in books they have written, orthodox to the core, and very valuable. They take the same position this statement takes.

I appeal to you this afternoon in the name of our God and Saviour, in the name of God’s work, the many missionaries, and great educational work of God’s Kingdom that Southern Baptists are doing in such a magnificent way, in the name of all these things I plead with you, let us get together; let us unanimously adopt this statement as it is here.

Well, if you don’t I just leave it on your hearts and ask you prayerfully to consider it, and ask the Master to show you how to do the thing that shall be just to every interest, that it shall be just to the cause and just to Jesus.

Source: Biblical Recorder
Date: June 24, 1925

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Independent Baptist Fundamentalism and the SBC

I have believed for the past decade that the conservative resurgence in the SBC has moved our convention beyond the initial goal of accepting the authoritative, inerrant and sufficient Word of God, toward an alignment with Independent Baptist Fundamentalism. When one examines the close connections between the late Jerry Falwell and leadership within the SBC the last twenty years, it does not take one long to see that the SBC has grown closer to the Independent Baptist Fundamentalism movement in the last few decades than anyone could have ever dreamed. Falwell joined the SBC, not because his church moved toward the SBC, but according to Falwell, 'The SBC has changed.'

Evangelical conservatives, like myself, have no problem affirming the fundamentals of the faith. However, where we part with Fundamentalism is in our differing views on the tertiary issues that are non-essentials of the Christian faith. John Piper, in his book Contending for the Faith, gives us a glimpse into the life of Dr. Gresham Machen. Machen was often hailed as a hero by the Fundamentalists of his day because he insisted on " defending the great doctrines" that had come under attack by liberals by "vigorously defending the truth."

However, Machen did not like being called a "Fundamentalist." Listen to his own words:

"Do you suppose that I do regret my being called by a term that I greatly dislike, a "Fundamentalist?" Most certainly I do. But in the presence of a great common foe (liberalism), I have little time to be attacking my brethren who stand with me in defense of the Word of God."(Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen, p. 337).

John Piper gives seven reasons why Machen never spoke of himself as a Fundamentalist. To Dr. Machen, Fundamentalism meant. . .

(1). The absence of historical perspective;
(2). The lack of appreciation of scholarship;
(3). The substitution of brief, skeletal creeds for the historic confessions;
(4). The lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine;
(5). The pietistic, perfectionist tendencies (i.e., hang-ups with smoking, drinking alchohol, etc . . );
(6). One-sided otherworldliness (i.e., a lack of effort to transform the culture), and,
(7). A penchant for futuristic chiliasm (or: premillennialism).

Recently I received the following letter from a pastor of an Independent Baptist Church who has applied to be a missionary. He has given me permission to use the letter. This pastor and missionary candidate has brilliantly and practically articulated what Machen feared intellectually. I have highlighted some of the pastor's key points (in bold print).

Brother Wade Burleson,

I want to thank you for your thoughtful and honest blog of June 2006 on the use of alcohol. I resigned the pastorate of an Independent Baptist Church because of the Lord’s clear direction to pursue a missions calling. I went on deputation but want to clarify that I am not strongly opposed to the SBC system or the IB system, though I do see problems in the implementation of them both. Of course, I’m best acquainted with the problems in the IB system. The mechanical clumsiness is something I can manage (though its difficult to see something so broken go on without repair), but a different issue seems to be testing my patience nearly to its end. Worse, my conscience is completely in turmoil over it.

I am a conservative Baptist. My convictions about the scripture are that they are so holy that we must not subjugate them to our prejudices or second hand judgments. Surely, I have been guilty of this in my life, but I dread it almost more than anything else. I have dear friends who love me and fellowship with me though we may not agree on every point or every practice. I think they are somewhat open minded, but mostly, they are loving. However, the overall mood of Independent Baptists is one in which intolerance and intellectual dishonesty about issues like this one with alcohol, or eschatology, or missionary methods, or the textual issue, etc. are so pervasive that those who are willing to explore these matters biblically tend to keep silence while a herd mentality – which I believe is motivated by pride and perpetuated by fear – demands complete conformity on things that really need to be openly discussed and considered. The result is that our expression of religion is getting contorted. You know all of this, I’m sure.

Because I have made friends over the years who graciously respect my work and calling and because I practice some diplomacy and happen to hold the ‘right’ positions on the issues that come up in preliminary communications, I’ve been able to schedule meetings in churches without much trouble. But here and there I am confronted with these kinds of issues. The conventional wisdom is that I should just keep my mouth shut, raise my support, and get to the field so I can do whatever I have to do there. It makes sense and I’m willing to defer for the cause of the gospel. On the other hand, I’m the kind of guy who works in a team and believes in networking in order to maximize the impact for the world evangelization. I also believe in being pretty transparent. Furthermore, in the IB system, missionaries are somehow expected to represent each and every church and the secondary issues are often more important than the fundamental truths of the faith. On top of that, though the sending organization I’m part of knows my demeanor and respects it, I don’t really know if they can take the heat if my views become widely known. Actually, I’m pretty sure they can’t.

To cut to the chase, I feel like I’m in position where I would have to sell out my convictions for support and I really just will not do that.

Please forgive this overly lengthy email. I just want to thank you for your courageous stand. I never buckled on these kinds of things when I was a pastor, though I was sensitive to how much truth people could handle in a sitting. By the grace of God, I endeavored to preach all and only what the Bible taught and was learning more about how to do that year by year. Now my mind is constantly weighing the great need for the gospel in the field I am called to against the need for it to be delivered with integrity. I love my friends and would not want to offend them or discourage them. But if I don’t deal with this correctly, I will only forestall the offense and create organizational difficulties. Your blog article was an encouragement to me as were so many positive comments made by others. They represent the testimony of countless sincere believers who treasure God’s Word above their personal preferences or cultural traditions. It’s refreshing.

Your Brother in Christ

My prayer is that we who are evangelical Christians, and associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, might continue to love and respect our Independent Fundamentalist Baptist brethren, but gently resist the tendencies of Fundamentalism that are contrary to the spirit and a tenor of Christ and the history of our convention.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Conversion to Christ Over a Glass of a Wine

Some of my blogging friends believe the resolution on alcohol use in America, as amended by the Executive Director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Texas, is an attempt to embarrass me, or possibly remove me from the International Mission Board of Trustees. 

I would caution anyone about assigning motives to certain members of the Resolutions Committee or the leadership of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Texas regarding me. In addition, I am never embarrassed about my interpretations of the Word of God, because I have such a high view of the inerrant, sacred text. If anything, I sometimes get embarrassed by the actions of my fellow Southern Baptists, but never what the Bible says.

I teach my children and my church that abstinence is a wise choice for every Christian, and the best way to avoid drunkenness. I wholeheartedly support all believers who have an abstinence conviction. However, I believe the authoritative, inspired Word of God forbids drunkenness, not necessarily the drinking of an alcoholic beverage.

One person called me today and said this resolution is an attempt to "get me" off the IMB. I laughed. That won't work. If the trustees were to approve a policy of total abstinence for sitting trustees, I would, of course, abide by it. As I have said, I am policy-driven. I would, however, without hesitation, argue against such a trustee policy prior to adoption because of my belief in the inerrant Word of God. The trustees of any agency have the right to set any policy they desire, even extra-Biblical requirements for trustees, and though I will seek to prevent the adoption of any extra-Biblical policy during my tenure on the IMB, were the abstinence policy to be adopted, I would abide by it.

My Pledge

In fact, I will go even further. Resolutions are not binding, but since I am elected by and represent the Southern Baptist Convention, and since the convention adopted a resolution urging abstinence by trustees, I will abstain from drinking an alcoholic beverage during my entire tenure as an IMB Board member.

However, let me use this "alcohol" issue as discussed by Southern Baptists at our Convention as an example of the overall lack in our convention of sound, Biblical exegesis. The idea that to drink a glass of wine, or any other alcoholic beverage, is a sin against God is so foreign to the teaching of the inspired, inerrant Word of God that for anyone to say to a Christian who has no abstinence conviction, "You are sinning against God when you drink a glass of wine" is a sin in itself. To do so would be to accuse Jesus of possessing personal sin, the epitome of liberalism.

Jesus drank wine. The disciples drank wine. Jesus turned the water into wine. Paul commanded Timothy "Drink a little wine for your stomach." The Biblical prohibition is "drunkenness." The inerrant Bible says "Be not drunk with wine."

And make no mistake: Drunkenness is a sin. It is a scourge on our society. We must sharply rebuke anyone, including the alcohol industry, who minimizes or encourages drunkenness. Our church disciplines people for the sin of drunkenness, and we treat the sin very, very seriously.

However, the sin of drunkenness is similar to the sin of promiscuous sex. We don't teach that a man should abstain from sex with his wife because other people are sex addicts. Similarly, we don't teach that individuals MUST abstain from alcohol because some commit the sin of drunkennes.

Likewise, we don't DEMAND that those who are single get married, or those who choose to abstain from alcoholic drink. Some things are matters of personal conviction and conscience. The pastor's job is not to force those who use sex properly, or alcohol properly, to abstain from either because some others cannot control the lusts of their wicked hearts, but rather, the pastor's job is to teach the Bible and urge God's people to live by Biblical principles.

I have never tasted beer. But I play golf every Friday with some wonderful men from my church that enjoy a glass of beer after the round. I don't condemn them for drinking beer and they don't condemn me for not drinking beer. And they don't get drunk.

There have been three people in our church in the last fifteen years, only three, who have undergone loving church discipline for the sin of drunkenness. All three people must now be --- by their personal choice and their corresponding accountability to our church --- absolute tea totalers. They have shown their inability to control their appetite for alcohol. Their drunkenness is a dishonor to the Christ who has saved them and a shame to the body of believers with whom they have joined. Their conduct has been a breach of our church covenant which forbids drunkenness.

Fortunately, the grace of God is apparent in all three and they willingly accepted the counsel of their families and pastors and agreed wholeheartedly that abstinence is now a requirement in their lives. If they drink, we all identify it as sin for them and immediately confront them. Yet, they understand abstinence is not demanded from others in the church.

Alcohol and the Bible

I believe one of the reasons Southern Baptists love to point to the act of drinking an alcoholic beverage as a sin in itself is because it is an action they can easily avoid and feel comfortable in their own self-righteousness. In fact, one messenger from Texas stated during the debate on the resolution that every Christian must ABSTAIN in order to be holy. Really?

The Bible teaches that claiming the righteousness of Christ is one's only hope of salvation. He is our holiness. We have His righteousness by faith. Imputed righteousness, of course, is not a license to sin, but the inspired Word of God never equates drinking an alcoholic beverage with sin. Drunkenness is the sin, according to God's word.

In fact, the Bible says wine was given by God for man's enjoyment. The Psalmist says that God gave wine to make men glad (Ps. 104:15). Jesus did not preach against the use of wine; instead, he did like most other Jews of his day. He drank wine in moderation. In ancient times it was normally diluted with water for drinking purposes, but it was one of the principal beverages in Palestine at that time—as it is today and it was, and is, alcoholic.

Jesus’ first miracle was to change water into wine (oinos). On this occasion, Christ turned six jars of 20 or 30 gallons each into wine (oinos). This was no small miracle. This wine was of the finest quality— “You have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). At such wedding feasts, after people had drunk the better wine, the hosts brought out lesser-quality wines.

Jesus gave a parable involving the fermenting process of oinos in Matt. 9:17. At that time, instead of having metal or glass bottles to enclose wine, the skins of animals were used. The fermentation of the wine would break an old inelastic skin, but it would not break a new stretchable skin.

Another proof that oinos is fermented wine is the fact that the apostle Paul said, “Be not drunk with wine [oinos]” (Eph. 5:18). Paul did not mean to avoid getting drunk on grape juice! Paul instructed Timothy, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine [oinos] for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23). He said to use only a little wine, not a whole lot. The purpose of this wine was Timothy’s frequent stomach ailments; small amounts of wine can help some stomach problems.

Some of the Corinthian Christians were getting drunk at the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:21). They were using fermented wine, probably following the example that Paul had set for them. Paul did not tell them that they were using the wrong kind of wine. He simply told them to eat and drink at home, and to participate in the Lord's Supper in a respectful way. In Romans 14:21, Paul says that it is good not to drink wine or eat meat if it offends a weak brother. He is referring to fermented wine; grape juice wouldn't offend anyone. The implication is that there's nothing wrong with the wine in itself.

Drunkenness Condemned in Scripture

Both the Old and New Testaments contain many examples and commands against excessive use of alcohol and drunkenness. Drunkenness is listed as one of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:21). That means it is the result of the undisciplined, indiscriminate use of alcohol. Jesus warned his followers not to be drunk (Luke 21:34).

The apostle Paul told the Corinthian church to “put away from among yourselves”—to have no fellowship—with a person who cannot control his or her drinking (1 Cor. 5:11-13). This refers to people who will not face up to or try to overcome drinking problems, not people who are working on and overcoming their problems. The Bible says that drunkards will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:21). No one who abuses alcohol should be ordained an elder in the ministry of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 3:3, 8, Tit. 1:7). If a minister drinks, it should be in moderation.

Wine Used in the Conversion of a Sinner

The following story is a beautiful narrative of reconciliation, conversion, and ultimate redemption --- all initiated because of a glass of wine.

Years ago a man came into our services and sat through the preaching time weeping. He was a wealthy, high profile businessman who had just gone through a heartwrenching divorce because of his own indiscretions.

After the service, he introduced himself to me and set up an appointment to see me for some counseling. This began a six-month pastoral relationship with this man that eventually led him to an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the ultimate experience of Divine forgiveness.

All that was now needed was reconciliation with his wife. He asked if I would counsel them. I said I would, but when he requested his wife to come with him to see me, she said, "No. He's a Baptist preacher. All he will do is condemn me."

The businessman was crushed. I asked him why his wife was so hostile about Baptist preachers. He told me she grew up Roman Catholic and the only time she ever attended a Baptist Church the preacher yelled and screamed about the sins of the people in the pews including drinking, going to movies, wearing short skirts and long hair, etc . . . and it turned her off from "the Baptist religion."

I suggested that rather than have her come to my office that the man might want to see if his ex-wife (a divorce had since occurred) would have my wife and I over for dinner, just to get acquainted. To his surprise, she agreed.

To our surprise, she was a gourmet chef. We entered the lovely home with the smell of French bread wafting in the air and sat at the table meticulously crafted for a true dining experience.

Unfortunately, though the introductions were cordial, I could tell the evening might be a long one because of the chill toward this "Baptist preacher."

As we sat down, I noticed the brilliant table settings, the scrumptiously prepared French gourmet meal, and the solemn expression on the woman's face.

I also noticed there were tea and water on the table.

So this Baptist pastor said, "You can't have a meal like this without wine. Where is the wine?"

I wish you could have seen her expression. She smiled and warmly said, "But I thought you were a Baptist preacher."

"I am," was my response, "And this Baptist preacher knows a great chef when he sees one, and no chef worth her salt would prepare a meal like this without wine."

She asked my wife and me to follow her as she took us down to the cellar. She was a wine collector and she proudly showed us her collection, passed down to her by her grandfather. She meticulously chose a bottle of wine for the occasion and we made our way back to the table.

I led us in prayer and we thanked God for the food and the drink and His provision for us. We ate a wonderful meal and I enjoyed a glass of wine. Nobody around the table had more than two glasses.

To make a long story short, the walls that had hindered the relationship came down. We enjoyed the evening with the couple and as a result, five things happened:

(1). I was able to lead this woman to faith in Jesus Christ, showing her that Christ alone provided the righteousness she needed and that she must forsake any trust in her own "self-righteousness." She trusted Him and was baptized shortly thereafter.
(2). It was my privilege to perform the private ceremony where wedding vows were exchanged again and this man and woman were reunited in marriage.
(3). The couple became very active in our church and have led out in our outreach of the lost in our community through Sunday School.
(4). They have personally given tens of thousands of dollars to the Lord's work through our church and Christian school, and have personally been able to lead several of their own family members to faith in Christ.
(5). They still have their wine collection and enjoy a glass of wine, but they have never been drunk since giving their lives to Christ as Lord.

Now, I ask this simple question to my Southern Baptist friends. What, if anything, is wrong with the events just described to you?

I am convinced that we Southern Baptists have for too long avoided teaching our children the principles of God's Word, and instead, substituted a system of religious morality that is often contradictory to the Bible, and therefore, when kids leave Southern Baptists homes they go off the deep end into addictions, rather than live their lives in the enjoyment of the things of God within the parameters established by God.

I have heard the argument before that "Even if one person becomes a drunk then I will abstain from alcohol because of it." The power of the gospel is absolutely lost in that kind of thinking. The drunk is drunk because of the sin in his soul. His soul is transformed by the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, not by observing the cultural prohibitions of a Southern Baptist. Christians around the world drink beer and wine without getting drunk. It doesn't hurt their witness. It seems the only weaker brothers I keep running into are Southern Baptist pastors who "stumble" when they see a Christian drinking wine. We Southern Baptist pastors claim to believe the Bible, but I sometimes wonder what Bible it is we are reading.

Let's teach the Bible. Let's proclaim the gospel. Let's focus on the essentials.
There is a lost world out there. It's time Southern Baptists were known for the transforming power of Christ rather than are cultural prohibitions.

In His Grace,


Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Would You Do If Invited to Attend or Speak at the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant?

"And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God" (Acts 19:8).

Paul's example of meeting with people who were different than he was seems to me to be an example of wisdom that might be applied, as well as a behavior that could be imitated, by those of us in the Southern Baptist Convention. When Paul met with the Jews of his day in their synogogue, it did not mean he accepted what they said, nor that they necessarily approved of what he said. Paul's presence, however, did present an opportunity for the Jews to hear the truth about Jesus being the Messiah.

The objections to any Southern Baptist participating in the Celebration of the New Covenant Baptist next January in Atlanta, Georgia, seem to be based upon five various forms of reasoning:

(1). The Celebration is simply a veiled attempt to rally Christians to vote Democratic just a week before the actual Democratic primaries.

A Response: It has been said repeatedly and consistently, by every Celebration leader so far, that the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant is intentionally and conscientiously seeking to transcend politics and avoid anything that would be controversial in the political arena - whether it be Democratic or Republican. A person either has to believe the organizers, or choose to disbelieve them. Paul gives the imperative in I Corinthians 13 that Christians are to believe all things said by other Christians until they happen to be proven wrong. I have displayed a willingness to gently but firmly point out when someone does not follow through with their word, and I'm sure others would do so as well if required, but it seems a tad premature to chastise the leaders of this Celebration before they have even had the opportunity to prove the reliability of their word by making the conversation and fellowship at the Celebration revolve around Jesus Christ.

(2). The organizers of this Celebration do not believe the same gospel as Southern Baptists.

A Response: In essence, this argument requires the person making it to allege that the organizers and participants are not Christian. I will not - yes, I cannot - even begin to go there.

(3). The participants and organizers are affiliated with the Baptist World Alliance, a liberal Baptist organization and participation would be an affirmation of liberalism.

A Response: Those of us who are conservative in our theology are not affirming 'liberal' theology if we happen to attend. Rather, we - like the Apostle Paul in Acts 19:8 - are simply showing a desire to dialogue about the kingdom. If there are Baptists at the Celebration who are neo-orthodox or flat out liberals (some would not say 'if' but 'since'), then maybe my conservative, evangelical friends, through conversation and dialogue, will show those Baptist liberals a better way. If we keep pulling out from fellowship with everyone that is more 'liberal' than us, then maybe we ought to keep our mouths shut about such convocations being 'liberal.' What do you expect? There are no gracious conservatives present to balance out the 'liberalism.'

(4). Jimmy Carter, the primary organizer is a universalist and inclusivist theologically, and has said some very intemperate things recently about President Bush. Attending the Celebration is to accept Carter's theological and political views.

A Response: To say Jimmy Carter is a universalist or inclusivist is proclaiming something directly opposite of what President Carter says about himself. Further, even if Carter actually believed those things, does the presence of thousands of other Baptists at the Celebration, many of whom are more conservative theologically than even Southern Baptists, mean they all believe the same way as Carter? The Jews in Paul's day (Paul himself being a Jew), did not believe in Jesus the Messiah. Paul's appearance in the Jewish synagogue did not mean Paul himself denied the Trinity. Likewise, like the presence of someone in the SBC at the Celebration would not make that person a universalist and inclusivist.

(5). Southern Baptists have nothing in common with the Baptists who will be gathering and should not seek to build relationships with those Baptists or begin a new work with Baptists who are not like Southern Baptists.

A Response: Again, it has been both publicly and privately stated by the organizers of the Celebration that there is no desire to begin a 'new' denomination or a 'new' missions organization. The purpose is to simply fellowship, dialogue and network among the autonomous Baptist churches and Baptist agencies that will be present at the Celebration. For Southern Baptists to stay away from what could very well be the largest African American and Caucasian Baptist convocation since prior to the Civil War does not send out a very good message to the world at large.

Closing Thoughts

It would seem to me, in following the example of the Apostle Paul, that the Southern Baptist and Christian response to the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant should be both gracious and kind, and if called by God to do so, participatory. In no form or fashion should we treat with animosity and hatred those Baptists who attend the Celebration. We owe our very enemies love, and I know enough about the Baptists of all stripes who will be attending the Celebration to know there is no reason for me to despise or hate any of them, or denigrate them.

In fact, like the Apostle Paul, we should . . .

(1) Pray for those various groups of Baptists who will attend the Celebration,

(2) Present our particular views of the truths of scripture when the opportunity arises,

(3) Preserve as much as possible a civility between everyone involved, and

(4) Resist being controlled by the fear of what someone will think, say, or infer from our faithfulness in relating to all people in love, even those with whom we might disagree in some fashion.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Do You Know What In the Sam Hill a Baptist Is?

There is a story in Edwin Mitchell’s 1946 Encyclopedia of American Politics that a man named Colonel Samuel Hill of Guilford, Connecticut, would repeatedly run for political office in the early 1800's -- but always without success. Soon, the popular phrase “to run like Sam Hill," or "what in the Sam Hill are you doing?" entered into the American lexicon. I don't know if the story is apocryphal or not, but I when I feel a tad frustrated I find myself thinking, 'What in the Sam Hill is going on?'

I have been astounded at claims of a few in the comment sections of this blog that certain Southern Baptists are not true Baptists, possibly even not Christian. Some have even alleged that any attempt to dialogue and fellowship with other Baptists is impossible because we don't even believe the same gospel. One commentor said that she could not attend any convocation of Baptists, regardless of the stated purpose, because that assembly would attempt to define "what it means to be a Baptist."

In spite of the fact that the only people I see attempting to narrowly define what it means to be a 'genuine' Baptist are a handful of people within the Southern Baptist Convention in cooperation with Independent Baptist leaders who have recently become Baptist because 'the SBC has became more like us, than we like them," (Dr. Falwell's own words), I believe it is when groups begin to attempt to 'define' more narrowly what a 'genuine' Baptist is that we all get into trouble. The definition of what it means to be Baptist should be simple, broad and Biblical. It should encompass New Testament Christianity and nothing more, nothing less.

The very essence of being Baptist is that you cannot be defined nor limited in a more narrow fashion than the Scripture -- for the Spirit of truth is our guide and the Word of truth is our boundary.

My friend Dr. Tom Nettles has given perhaps the best definition of what it means to be Baptist of anyone I have read. You may find it in his classic "By His Grace and For His Glory."

Tom says a Baptist is . . .

Orthodox -- This means we believe in the Trinity as revealed in Scripture and articulated in the writings and councils of the church fathers. This separates Baptists from the cults and other world religions who renounce Christ as the second person of the Trinity and the Savior of mankind in the sense that 'God saves sinners.'

Evangelical -- This means we believe a sinner is made right with God by God's grace. We realize personally that grace through our faith in Jesus Christ's person and work. 'Evangelicalism' focuses our attention on the 'good news.' God is the author and creator of the news; evangelists are the proclaimers of it; converts are believers in it. This 'evangelicalism' separates us from the Roman Catholics of the Middle Ages. Though there may be many modern Roman Catholics who are evangelical, this would be in spite of their church's 'offical' doctrine. The Evangelical/Catholics Together effort of the last decade may very well be a reflection that many in Catholocism are returning to their historic (2nd, 3rd, and 4th century) 'evangelical' roots and abandoning the dark and brooding Roman Catholic heresies of the Middle Ages, but I do not know enough about this to offer an opinion. I do believe we should always be open to any entity or person who moves toward evangelicalism, regardless of their previous history. However, until you are evangelical you could not be considered a true Baptist.

Separatistic -- This third and final word that describes Baptists means we believe in the separation of church and state. We do not baptize infants and bestow upon them a 'Christian' name and citizenship at baptism. We hold to a 'believers' church -- one separated from the world and 'the government' via faith in Christ. The Baptist church is historically a regenerate church. This separates us from the German Lutherans, the English Anglicans, the Scottish Presbyterians and any other church/state evangelical denominations who have taken center stage throughout history. We call these folks from other denominations 'brothers and sisters in Christ,' but we would not call them Baptists.

THAT to me is the best short definition of what it means to be a Baptist. I believe we should vigorously challenge anyone who tries to narrow the definition any further. In fact, I believe we should blush if we question either the genuiness of the Christianity or the Baptist convictions of anyone who affirms the above - regardless of political, social, cultural and philosophical differences between us.

In His Grace,


Monday, May 21, 2007

Has the Gospel's Power Been Lost in the SBC?

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16

Throughout Christian history in general, and Southern Baptist history in particular, the power of the gospel has been the cornerstone of our faith. The prophet of old declared God saves sinners and we have unashamedly proclaimed that truth to a the world around us. We have openly preached the exclusivity of Christ (He is the only Savior our God has given among men), salvation by grace (God's grace), and the benefits of that salvation received through faith in Christ (and not our own works).

It seems to me, however, that the modern gospel is losing its power as proclaimed by some Southern Baptists. The true gospel never loses her power, but weak substitutes fizzle like damp fuses. We have become more focused on the minutia of our faith than the Man in whom we place our faith. Instead of declaring that faith 'as a mustard seed' in Christ saves, we have demanded a robust, detailed and precise doctrinal faith before we confer upon another believer our denominational blessing of true justification. We become angry and boisterous when fellow evangelicals don't see eye to eye with us on social, political and cultural issues and begin to discount the genuineness of their faith. We act as if it is our faith, our works, and our commitment that form the basis of our salvation. Though we say with our lips salvation is by grace through the work of Christ, we sometimes broadcast with our lives that salvation is really only found in our church, our message, and our baptism.

As a result, the Southern Baptist Convention, if we are not careful, will gradually become a denomination of religious hierarchy, and over time, as happens to all 'religions,' we will find ourselves increasingly irrelevant and spiritually powerless. Recently the new policy on baptism was shown to Ray Hugget, High Priest of the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints and a direct descendent of Joseph Smith, and asked him what he thought of it. Ray read it carefully and then proclaimed that the policy is just like his church's view on baptism. I asked him to clarify and he said, "A legitimate baptism is one performed only in our church, because we are the true church of Jesus Christ on earth, and we would not accept any other baptism."

When we begin to focus so intently on what we confess to believe as a 'denomination' and lose sight of the sufficiency of God's Word and the merits of Christ's work, we are in danger of becoming a religious denomination instead of a convention of evangelical Baptist churches with Christ as our head. When we put the instructions of denominational authorities regarding 'true doctrine' above our own understanding of Scripture, no matter how sincere those authorities may be, we are one step away from crossing the rubicon to becoming a 'top down' denomination instead of a loose knit confederation of churches who cooperate for the purpose of missions. When we question the salvation of any Southern Baptist who doesn't cross every 't' and dot every 'i' in the same manner as the 'majority' of the SBC, then we prostitute our Baptist heritage at the altar of denominational conformity. When pressure to be faithful to our denominational decrees becomes more intense than to be true to one's convictions regarding Christ's commands, then we have lost the truest sense of what it means to be empowered by the gospel.

I am a Southern Baptist. Lord willing, I will be a Southern Baptist until the day I die. But, I am a Christian first. The power of the gospel energizes me and the love of Christ constrains me. For this reason, I accept all those around me who differ from me, but I will resist toe to toe any Southern Baptist who demands conformity to their views on tertiary issues. I will enjoy their company, cooperate without hesitation in missions and evangelism, and learn from them -- but we must not, we cannot, succomb to the temptation to be directed by anyone other than Christ.

God saves His people. He will not fail. He is not impotent or purposeless. He accomplishes all His will, for the counsel of the Lord shall stand. He does whatsoever He pleases. We have the privilege of getting in on what God is doing in bringing His people to glory through His Son Christ, but the advance of His kingdom is not dependent on Southern Baptists. In fact, to the extent that we are under the illusion that our convention (or denomination if you prefer) is synonymous with His kingdom, is the extent to which we become increasingly irrelevant. If we lose sight of Him and His power and begin to focus on our convention and our 'power,' then He can raise up the very rocks to honorably do those things we have forfeited. I don't think, however, he will make it to the rocks.

He will find others who are willing to focus more on the gospel and His Kingdom than their own denomination.

In His Grace,


Friday, May 18, 2007

Popularity Is Not My Mistress; Christ Guides Me

I am currently reading a book entitled "Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989" by Presidential historian Michael Beschloss. It is quickly becoming one of my top ten books of all time. Beschloss points out that the greatest leaders in United States history were those who were willing to buck popular opinion, follow one's conscience and conviction, and implement change for the good of the nation as a whole. As President John Adams said when he sought peace with France during a time that the vast majority of Americans desired war with the French, "Popularity is not my mistress."

There are three positions I am committed to take as a Southern Baptist for the next decade that may not be popular, but I am convinced that each of them is the right course of action for me.

(1). I am committed to love those Christians with whom I disagree.

I shared in my blog comment string yesterday that I am a die hard Republican. One of my best friends is a Republican National Committee member. Our former Republican Governor, Frank Keating, used my office on a regular basis when he would travel through northwest Oklahoma. I am a right wing conservative politically. I am pro-Israel, and anti-abortion. I support a consitutional amendment on marriage and believe the war in Iraq is just. You will not find a bigger supporter of George W. Bush than I, and I am absolutely convinced history will be kinder to him than the current polls. I love America and am a very strong capitalist. Yet . . .

I refuse to be defined by my politics when it comes to relating to, and cooperating with, my Christian brothers and sisters. I don't care if my brother in Christ is a Democrat, or a left wing politian. I don't care if he is politically anti-Israel, and refuses to fight against abortion in the same manner as I - I will still call him a brother in Christ. I don't care if he dislikes George Bush, believes the war in Iraq is unjust and favors more money for welfare and blushes at the presentation of colors - I will still call him a brother in Christ. I don't care if he is black, Asian, Hispanic or Jewish, if he calls Christ His Lord - he is my brother. He may view the world different than I; he may relate to the world different than I; but if he is my brother in Christ I will extend to him the right hand of fellowship and love.

I will, however, make a deal with him. When we get together, let's not talk about politics. When we worship together, let's just focus on Christ. When we see a need in the world around us, let's do our part to meet that need through cooperation. We may never see eye to eye politically, philosophically or even theologically, but we will commit to love each other with the love of Christ. I shall refuse and resist to become caustic, angry or bitter towards my brother or sister in Christ, and would hope the desires would be reciprocal. But even if my brother in Christ tries to provoke me to anger by attacking me, I will steadfastly refuse to respond in kind.

I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him. -- Booker T. Washington

(2). I am committed to be firm in my convictions, but humble in my relationships.

I am not scared to dialogue with others who disagree. I am not afraid to listen to those with opposing views. Only the weak silence dissent. Only the insecure wish the dissidents buried. Those strong in their convictions have the ability to be humble in their approach. Meekness is controlled strength, and only strength of convictions under control give rise to meekness in relationships with others.

In fact, I will go even further. When evangelical conservative Christians seek to make friends of liberal non-evangelical Christians, liberalism is destroyed. It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance, and it is the goodness of conservatives that leads non-conservatives to a greater appreciation for, and ultimate conversion to, a more conservative view of their world and their faith. Animosity, anger, bitterness and hate only turn people away from the fulness of the gospel, but love, grace, meekness and patience lead people to it.

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? -- Abraham Lincoln

(3). I will absolutely refuse to allow any of my political, cultural, traditional or national views transcend or trump my view of the gospel of Jesus Christ and my relationship with those who follow Him.

That does not mean I will not maintain my national, political, and cultural identity, for I will. To deny who I am would be dishonest. However, in everything Jesus Christ will be preeminent. I am not interested in people living like those of us in Western Civilization. I am not even that concerned that people view the world as I view it. World views are important, but Christ has a way of changing the perceptions of His people, and He does not need me to do it for Him.

I will keep the main thing the main thing. I desire to know nothing among you save Christ and Him crucified. It is my desire to win converts to Christ, and His kingdom transcends everthing. I will resist with all my might ANY attempts to politicize the spiritual. We Baptists always err when we are more concerned with politics, denominationalism, national identity, and Western Civilization than we are the kingdom of Christ. I remind all of us however that the Apostle Paul clearly told us that the purpose of goverment is to 'bear the sword of justice,' while the purpose of the church is to proclaim to the world the gospel of Christ.

When I am around my brothers in Christ I will pray with them, support them, encourage them, partner with them, and praise them -- but I will not seek to make them like me politically, culturally, philosophically or even theologically. Nor will I bend if they attempt to make me like them. My bond with my brothers and sisters in Christ is Christ alone.

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. -- Bishop Desmond Tutu

I look forward to the next ten years in the SBC.

In His Grace,


Thursday, May 17, 2007

That Which Unites Us Is the Gospel of Christ

And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him . . . And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.' And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him (Luke 4:17-20).

Several months ago I received a phone call from Attorney Dan Malone in El Paso, Texas. Dan requested that I consider meeting with former President Jimmy Carter about the former President's desire for a convocation called 'The Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant' to be held January 30-February 1, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Frankly, I did not think much about the phone call at the time, but have since discovered that Dan Malone is a very intelligent and persistent Baptist layman from Texas who wishes all Baptists to live at peace and harmony with one another. He eventually arranged the meeting for yesterday, May 17, 2007, in Atlanta, Georgia at the Carter Center - which is located next door to the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Marty Duren, C.B. Scott, and Ben Cole joined Dan and I in visiting with President Carter.

I learned during the meeting with President Carter several things about the convocation early next year:

(1). The theme of 'The Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant' is based on the first sermon Jesus preached (Luke 4:27-30), and there is a very conscientious effort to keep the convocation focused on those things Jesus said He came to accomplish.

(2). All four major United States African-American Baptist Conventions have moved their national meetings to the week of the convocation so their members can stay and participate. With their involvement, this very well might be the largest and most ethnically diverse Baptist convocation in history.

(3). Because a few have alleged that the convocation is nothing more than a 'Democratic' primary disguised as a Baptist gathering, the organizers have intentionally invited, and received acceptances from, key Republican Baptist leaders. These include Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee; South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham; and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. However, it was reiterated to us time and time again that the meeting was about the gospel - not politics - and Baptists from every political background and ethnicity were being invited.

(4). If it was said once, it was said a half dozen times -- there is no desire by anyone participating in organizing the convocation to begin any new convention, any new denomination or any new Baptist entity. Everyone wishes to maintain autonomy. The goal is simply to convocate, dialogue, build relationships and ultimately encourage one another in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and to rejoice over what others are accomplishing.

(5). We were asked to assist in informing Southern Baptists that the goal of the convocation is to focus on what we have in common (Luke 4:17-20) rather than that which divides us. In addition, we were asked specifically to contact a couple of Southern Baptists to request them to speak during the plenary sessions.

My Impressions of the Meeting

I was impressed with President Carter's humility, mental acumen at age eighty three, and his gentle manner. He was very sincere in expressing his desire that Baptists unite around the fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ at this convocation and lay aside all political and minor doctrinal differences for the greater purpose of building the kingdom of Christ. Not once was a negative word spoken about anyone. Not once was there expressed critical statements about the SBC or SBC leadership. Rather, there was a repeated desire expressed that everyone in the SBC feel welcome and a fully participating partner at the convocation.

The discussions for an hour were around the world's need of Jesus Christ and the great possibilities if Baptist Christians were to unite to help eradicate some of the major problems in our world including poverty, disease and injustice. President Carter shared that he teaches anywhere between 200 to 600 guests who attend his Sunday School class during the forty weeks out of the year he is at First Baptist Church, Plains, Georgia. He still uses the traditional Southern Baptist literature (he's been teaching Revelation the last four weeks), but makes it a point to share the gospel of Christ every Sunday because there are people who have come to hear him preach that are in need of Christ. Mr. Carter keeps the main thing the main thing on Sunday morning.

The prayer time at our meeting yesterday was truly a prayer time. The Spirit was present, the words were heartfelt, and the yearning for God to send revival among all Baptists very real. I am not sure what the outcome of the meeting may ultimately be, but I can assure you that it was refreshing to be someplace where discussions of denominational or national politics were taboo, discussions of Christ and kingdom ministry encouraged, and the ideas of all parties respected.

What I Anticipate

Driving back from Will Rogers Airport this evening my wife asked me if I was prepared for those who would seek to crucify me for meeting with President Carter. She said that she was already tensing because of the realization that some would attack my character, my theology, my commitment to the SBC, etc . . .

I smiled to myself and told her to relax. I then said this:

"There is no Christian that I have ever met - not one - Southern Baptist or not, who would EVER be offended or disturbed by what was discussed around that conference table at the Carter Center today."

She agreed with me, but she also said that the problem is some Southern Baptists are so entrenched in their views of others that they refuse to even begin talking. I told her that it was my desire to help Southern Baptists see that fellow Baptists are NOT the enemy. We can keep our unique way of doing missions in the SBC; we can keep our distinct structure and autonomy as the SBC; we can keep others out who will not affirm the BFM if we so choose; but we don't have to keep acting as if other Baptist Christians are our competitors or our opponents.

The Difficulty We Must Overcome

At the DFW Airport on my way back from Atlanta I ran into a very well known oil executive from Oklahoma who has been a friend of mine for several years. He is a Southern Baptist and we have served on different boards together within the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He asked me where I had been and I told him of the meeting with President Carter.

Immediately a cloud came over his face and he said that Carter was a terrible politician. He then mentioned something that Carter had done in Venezuela regarding oil that damaged the USA's oil interests (including the company with whom this man was associated). I am quite sure that my friend knew exactly what he was talking about, and I am even almost certain I would agree with him if I knew all the details of that to which he was referring.

However, what troubled me was the cloud that came over my friend's face at the mention of Carter's name. It seemed to me that his views of Carter's business and political decisions trumped his views of Carter's decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In other words, the man had a hard time getting past politics and business to see a brother in Christ.

My prayer is that we as Southern Baptists can get to the point where our relationship with Christ and each other is more important than our political, philosophical or national ideology. We are part of a kingdom that transcends the natural. It is eternal and spiritual. The head of that kingdom is Christ and He himself said By this shall all men know that you are my disciples; if ye have love one for another.

I shall maintain my conservative values. I have no desire, nor shall I ever have a desire, to recant my conservative beliefs. My love for Scripture and its sufficiency in my life for faith and practice is a bulwark against theological liberalism. I am who I am. However, I refuse to let others define who or who is not my brother in Christ. Nor will I relent to the demands that I not associate with those Baptist brothers who are different than I.

It's time we focused on what unites us with other Baptists instead of what divides us from other Baptists.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A New Book by Alan Cross and Dwight McKissic

Alan Cross is the pastor of Gateway Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and writes a blog called downshoredrift. Alan and Dwight McKissic are talking about possibly writing a book representing a Baptist view on the continuation of the gifts and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. Alan has noticed many missionaries writing amazing stories on this blog, albeit anonymously, about what God is doing in Africa and most recently in China. Alan believes it is important that someone take up the task of documenting what many Southern Baptists claim that God is doing around the world. He recently wrote me an email as follows:


As I have participated in the debate between cessationists/semi-cessationists and continuationists, I have run into the argument that God is not performing miraculous signs and wonders today in the same way that He did in Biblical times. I have heard cessationists ask for proof and have said that if healings are occuring and if the dead are being raised, then why are we not hearing about it? At the same time, I have read several "Anonymous" IMB missionaries write in with stories claiming that they have seen the dead raised in Africa and the mute speak in China, among other stories. I was especially impacted by the missionary in China who recently wrote in describing what was happening there. Could this be documented in some way? What kind of a denomination are we to suppress these wondrous acts of God and hide them away because they do not fit our paradigms? I understand why they are posting anonymously, but I wonder if they would be willing to talk with me or send me their stories? I promise that I would protect their identity, but I really feel that these stories need to get out in some form or fashion. I am wondering if a book or journal article on the continual miraculous work of the Holy Spirit among Southern Baptists in the areas of healings, miracles, divine intervention, guidance, and other Biblical manifestations would not be helpful to the Body of Christ? I have many stories of my own to share, but I am thinking that it would be amazing to collect some of the things that Southern Baptists are experiencing around the world in a way that would begin to open people's eyes to God's activity. We have made many biblical arguments on the blogs to describe the continuationist perspective, but these stories from Southern Baptist pastors and missionaries on the field would be very beneficial to add in as a testimony to the truth of Scripture.

The purpose of this is not to "prove" something to the IMB Board of Trustees. That ship has sailed. Rather, the rest of us need to know what God is doing in people's lives as He continues to work miraculously to bring glory to Himself. If you know who these people are, could you contact them or let them know that I am interested in pursuing such a project? Again, I promise to protect their identities, but I really feel that these stories need to be told. You can contact me at .

Grace and Peace,

Alan Cross

David Rogers has a very interesting post that complements much of what Alan is saying from a different angle. If you are interested in helping Alan and Dwight please contact him.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, May 14, 2007

Something I Genuinely Do Not Understand

At the IMB meeting in Kansas City last week I took the opportunity, between meetings, to tour the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.

During the nineteen minute introductory video of the life of the former President, the narrator said that the Democratic handlers of President Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt chose Missouri Senator Harry Truman as the 1944 Vice-Presidential running mate because he was "a Southern Baptist, friendly with labor, and a well-liked politician."

That phrase stuck with me because I had already made a visit to the First Baptist Church of Independence, Missouri. Even though we arrived unannounced at First Baptist Church, Dr. Kevin Paine gave Ben Cole and I a tour of the historic church buildings. He showed us the old auditorium, and then the new auditorium - built in the 1970's - which has been recently remodeled under Dr. Paine's leadership.

During the tour Dr. Paine explained that President Truman visited FBC frequently, both during his time in office and the twenty years he lived in Independence after leaving the White House. However, like the politician he was, Truman never joined any particular church. Yet the President never hesitated calling himself a Southern Baptist. Traditional lore says that First Baptist Church, Independence, Missouri was the spiritual home of the late President.

Dr. Paine also explained to us the difference beteen the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, whose headquarters is in Independence, Missouri, and the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), whose headquarters is in Salt Lake City, Utah. During his explanation, Dr. Paine revealed his own Christology (very conservative), his soteriology (salvation by grace through faith), his bibliology (the Bible is sufficient for all faith and practice of the Christian), and his ecclesiology (Christ is the head of His church).

Dr. Paine revealed to us that, shortly after he had become pastor of First Baptist Church, the Missouri Baptist Convention kicked his church and eighteen other Southern Baptist churches in Missouri out of the state convention for their 'dual alignment.' Dr. Payne said that his church had contributed to many Baptist organizations over the years, including the SBC and CBF.

I am a full supporter of all things SBC, and have never believed our convention should separate, divide or splinter. Many people already know that when the CBF formed in Oklahoma in 1992 I nailed on the door of the organizational meeting 95 Theses Against Participation in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. This act led some in the CBF to label me a fundamentalist, while some who are are without controversy true fundamentalists call me moderate or liberal.

I was impressed with Dr. Paine's warm evangelism, his orthodox theology, and his attempts to keep his church focused on reaching the community for Christ. We commended Dr. Paine for his work at reviving the historic downtown church, had prayer with him over his life and ministry, and bid him a cordial farewell. Since meeting Dr. Paine and touring the historic First Baptist Church of Independence, Missouri, a question has continued to plague my understanding. Regardless of one's views on the politics at play within the SBC, I believe the same question must be confusing to anyone and everyone working in cooperating missions ministry . . .

"Why would any conservative agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, whether it be state or national, reject the mission dollars of a church or individual who desires to contribute to that agency's work in reaching the world for Christ through the proclamation of the gospel?"

What does it prove when that agency refuses mission dollars?

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Update: Don Wideman informs me that President Truman was a member of FBC Grandview in the years prior to his Presidency, and upon moving to Independence never changed his membership, but attended his mother-in-law's home church (Episcopal) and other churches in the area, including FBC.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Final Post on Grace and Truth to You on the New Tongues Guideline at the IMB

Unless providentially shown otherwise, today's post will be the final one on this subject at Grace and Truth to You. I will move on to other issues related to the SBC. The words of Dr. Boyd Luter, former dean of Criswell College, a New Testament theologian and currently a Southern Baptist pastor, shall provide the benediction. If you would like background to Boyd's comment, you might wish to read the comments at the end of Friday's post.

Wade and All,

As I said in answer to a question on the panel at the Holy Spirit Conference at Arlington, the way people interpret biblical passages (regarding tongues) today is going to be significantly affected by at least the following areas:

- Cultural Leanings (Are you still a Modernist with a closet anti- supernatural suspicion, if not bias, or are you young enough to where you grew up with at least a mild Postmodernist bent, even if you didn't know what it is?)

- Colored Lenses (Did you come to the text having been taught by your highly respected pastor/ mentor/professor/"hero" [or all the above] that a certain view was true, and who are you to think otherwise?)

- Comfort Zone (Are you fearful of change or being "out of control" or even scared of the Holy Spirit?)

- Controlling Passages (They function this way: "That passage can't possibly mean that, because I've already made my decision on this doctrine from this other passage [or passages], which fit my preconceived notion.")

Bottom line here: You guys, all of whom I really like, and all of whom are passionately convinced of your positions, are not going to change the other's views... at least not much, unless something shifts significantly in one or more of the four categories above.

I wish it wasn't so, but it is.

Here's the only other thing I think is worth saying here: Alan, (who is a continuatist) I think you are wrong that a tide is turning against you. If anything, I think there are signs the opposite is happening, though slower than you would want.

Here's what I think you are reacting to: You didn't hear this argument played out at Golden Gate, and you didn't become really aware of things until the recent IMB controversy. In that regard, these "guidelines" sound ominous to you.

But, the other side of the story is that the SBC has been heavily Cessationist behind the scenes right on along, although almost no official stances were taken (either because nobody wanted to mess with the BFM for so long, or because it was not thought that anything even needed to be done).

Now, however, the issues--although I would agree with Wade that they are 3rd tier doctrinal areas--are front and center because of the IMB BoT's 2005 decisions and because evangelical Christianity in many parts of the world, which is unquestionably growing much faster than in North America, is also unquestionably Charismatic. And, what has just happened?

Was it a setback? Yes, but nothing at all like the type or number William Wilberforce et al had to absorb on the way to their final victory in the British Parliament.

You see, after the first CR generation, in which many, if not most, of the leaders and lieutenants were left-over Cessationists more or less of the Criswell variety, things have now BEEN changed, first slightly by the recognition in 2005 that there may be such a thing as legit. tongues, then this week by the elimination of the previous statement "The majority of Southern Baptist churches do not practice glossalalia." W.A. Criswell and his followers would have been scandalized even by the quasi-Semi-Cessationist wording in 2005 and completely dumbfounded by the elimination of the "majority" statement in 2007 (which adds up to Semi-Cessationist/Semi-Continuationist exegetical conclusions, even if the application of them is Dogmatic Cessationist, due to the narrower Fundamentalist desire to hold the fort.

It would appear that the IMB Trustees are smart enough to see the writing on the wall long-term.

The make-up of the SBC is clearly getting less Cessationist with every passing year and even the new BoT policy at SWBTS is unlikely to change that much, given how many other SBC educational options exist and SWBTS's trending decline in numbers and impact for some time now (Does anyone remember not that long ago when SWBTS was considered the SBC flagship and the idea of her enrollment [which did not then include the College] dropping below 4,000 seemed totally ludicrous?). Thus, the IMB trustees' ad hoc committee definitely had their job cut out for them: 1) Put their finger in the dike in the face of of an increasingly less Cessationist and more Continuationist (though not necessarily Charismatic) SBC; 2) while facing the facts that the only even partly Cessationist position they can still make a straight-faced case for exegetically is Semi-; 3) but having to "save face" with those who got them their appointments by maintaining what appears to be a hard-nosed Cessationist practical stance (and even that has moderated somewhat).

We must face this fact: Meaningful change is almost always hard and very seldom quick. But, from a "big picture" standpoint, the glass is half full if, for no other reason than, the IMB BoT, representing the SBC, a people of "the Book," have updated their exegesis reflecting a generational reality and toned down their negative implications and practical outworkings. And, for that same reason, the glass is half empty for the shrinking Cessationist ranks in SBC life. They no longer have the unquestioned large majority of the churches and they no longer have a prevailing, if unofficial, "close the door completely" exegetical stance in their favor. And, frankly, with the virtual admission that there are no real problems on this front in the missionary force on the field, they do not have a whole lot left there either. And, if the new "guidelines" were only passed by a 3/4 majority on a seemed to be a fairly well stacked board, there would appear to be reason to hope that this is not the last time these issues will be heard by this Board in the foreseeable future.

Just let the heat (it's only "righteous indignation" if short term [Eph. 4:26-27]) level die down and the light [loving wisdom] level gain its equilibrium and things may look at least a tad different.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Solid Food For Thought from Drs. Luter and Storms

I have had a very long week and a long day of travel home from Kansas City. There are several very interesting posts that I will publish next week about the time in KC. The commissioning service brings tears to my eyes every time I see all the missionaries lined up giving their testimonies, and the service Wednesday night was no different. Further reflections will be forthcoming after the first of the week. Until then, I have chosen to post two comments on yesterday's post, one from Dr. Sam Storms, and the other from Dr. Boyd Luter. Both comments are worthy of serious reflection. The issue over the adoption of the new guidelines at the IMB is over. These men's comments are posted to help you understand some of the larger issues that will be coming before the convention at large.

Dr Sam Storm's Comment

Wade and others,

I am not writing to address the denominational or political issues that are provoked by the recent decision of the IMB. My aim is simply to address what I perceive to be the theological naiveté and exegetical imprecision of the IMB statement posted on your blog.

Several points need to be made.

First, in its statement on Glossolalia the “Guideline” affirms that glossolalia “is considered to be a legitimate language.” This isn’t at all helpful, given the fact that most Continuationists acknowledge that all glossolalia is linguistic in nature. All tongues speech, whether exercised in public or private, is “language” that communicates cognitive content. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when he declares that the one who speaks in a tongue speaks “to God” (1 Cor. 14:2) and in doing so prays (1 Cor. 14:14), praises (1 Cor. 14:15), and gives thanks (1 Cor. 14:16). Praying, praising, and giving thanks are all meaningful, substantive communication between the believer and God. So yes, of course tongues is a “legitimate language.” But what this statement fails to address is whether the language is human, such as Russian or Chinese or English, or a language of heaven or an angelic dialect or a uniquely spiritual language constructed by God to constitute this particular spiritual gift.

Second, the Board refers to “ecstatic utterances” in spite of the fact that nowhere in the New Testament is this vocabulary used of tongues speech. Why is it so difficult for the IMB Board or Christians in general to recognize that tongues speech is not ecstatic? It never has been. It never will be. Nowhere in the NT portrayal of tongues speech, whether public or private, is it ever described as entailing the loss of control, loss of consciousness, loss of awareness of one’s surroundings, or loss of will on the part of the one speaking. Tongues speech in the NT never entails the individual experiencing some sort of altered state of consciousness or disengagement with his/her surroundings. May I ask that we all, once and for all, drop the adjective “ecstatic” from our descriptions of the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. I make this appeal to Continuationists and Cessationists alike.

Third, the Board stated that according to the New Testament “prayer is to be made with understanding.” This also is ambiguous and misleading, and in one particular case, patently false. My first response is to ask, “Whose understanding?” Is the Board saying that the person praying must have understanding of what he is saying? In all instances of prayer, except for the gift of tongues, the biblical answer to that question is Yes! But the very nature of tongues as a spiritual gift is that one is enabled to pray and praise in a “language” (whether human, heavenly, or angelic) that one does NOT understand. That is why God graciously and appropriately provides the spiritual gift of interpretation. If the person praying always and automatically understands what he/she is praying via tongues, what would be the point or need for the gift of interpretation? What would be the point of Paul exhorting those who pray in tongues to pray also that they may interpret (1 Cor. 14:13)? If they necessarily always understand what they are praying, interpretation would be superfluous.

On the other hand, perhaps the Board was referring to the understanding of others, those who hear someone pray. If that is what they meant, then I agree. So does Paul, which is why he always insisted on interpretation if tongues is used in public. Without interpretation, no one understands, neither the speaker nor the listener. And without understanding there can be no edification (1 Cor. 14:2,5,27-28) for others in the body of Christ (although the person praying in tongues is still edified; see 1 Cor. 14:4). This is the reason for Paul’s meticulous regulation of the use of tongues in public. It is wonderful for tongues to be used in public IF and ONLY IF there is interpretation. In the absence of interpretation, it must be restricted to one’s private “prayer closet” (so to speak).

Look carefully at 1 Cor. 14:14-15. Paul says that when he prays in a tongue his s/Spirit prays but his mind is unfruitful. That is to say, he is praying well enough but neither he nor anyone who might be listening understands (this is what Paul means by the word “unfruitful”). What then should Paul (and we) do? According to the IMB, he should keep his mouth shut. Since there is no understanding, Paul should never again pray in tongues, either in public or private, and he should prohibit all others from the same. But that’s not what Paul concludes! Keep reading. He says: “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit [i.e., in tongues], but I will pray with my mind also [i.e., in the vernacular, so that all can understand]; I will sing praise with my spirit [this is simply tongues speech put to music or melody], but I will sing with my mind also [as do we all when we sing hymns and psalms, etc.]” (v. 15).

The IMB is under the mistaken assumption that for any experience to be beneficial it must occur via the cerebral cortex of the brain. They seem to believe any experience that transcends the rational comprehension of the person in whom it is happening is useless. Paul disagrees! He obviously believed that it was possible for the human spirit to commune and communicate with the Divine Spirit in a way that transcends rational comprehension. However, he also believed that if no one is present to interpret such “speech” for the edification of other believers that the person with tongues should keep silent in the corporate assembly.

So, as you can see, I don’t think the IMB is going to progress very far in this matter until they come to grips with the actual language of Paul concerning tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. Blessings to all!


Dr. Boyd Luter's Comment

Wade and others,

Sam had a lot of solid exegetical insight to offer, but it is not going to change the decision of the IMB BoT. They do not appear to be willing to listen to a critique of their supposed exegetical basis at this time. Rather, they are comfortable in the fact that those who have been their behind the scenes advisors in this process are curently willing to sign off on what is now commonly called 'Semi-cessationism' (see my further explanation below), if for no other reason than they believe that they can make the same stand over Charismatic Continuationist candidates as they could with a full Cessationist position.

But, I honestly believe that there is a "the glass if half full perspective" that is worth noting here, to at least partly balance the large number of "the glass is half empty" opinions that have been expressed. Here it is: for the first time, there is an official statement that recognizes that some kind of "tongues" (i.e., glossalalia) do in fact exist.

Yes, the way things are worded in point 3 and the applicational angles are highly skeptical. But, points 1 and 2 add up to the recognition that there is, in fact, biblical reason to believe that there is a legitimate form of tongues at work in the world today.

What does that mean from a "glass is half full" perspective? Even though, in the IMB BoT's view, there is much out there that is not legit. tongues, THERE IS AlSO SOME THAT IS. In other words, the wording of their statement can be just as accurately described as "Semi-Continuationist" as it is "Semi-Cessationist" (since the prefixed 'semi-' means "having some of the characteristics of"). That is why, when I did my presentation in Arlington, even though I used the common term "Semi-Cessationist," I also put in parentheses "Skeptical Continuationist?". You see, the view reflected in the IMB BoT decision is at least as much akin to the Continuationist side of the aisle as it is to Cessationist side EXEGETICALLY, though not ATTITUDINALY. The door has been opened to some degree from an exegetical standpoint (i.e., mild Continuationism), but there is skepticism attitudinally (i.e., practical Cessationism).

Think about this and gain perspective: the Conservative Resurgence saw conservatives calling the other bunch Liberals, which they felt was MORE ACCURATE, when they wanted to be called Moderates and the broader group calling their opponents Fundamentalists, which they felt was MORE ACCURATE, when the other bunch insisted on calling themselves Evangelicals. Similarly, is it really in any way inaccurate to call the newly expressed IMB BoT position Semi-Continuationism (or Skeptical Continuationism)? After all, their statement clearly allows for the continuation of tongues, though the application quibbles about the legitimacy of its its manifestations.

What an amazing thing? To be able to construct what they fell is a safe 'fall-back position' biblically, the IMB BoT had to slide across to a view that, exegetically, is at least equally Continuationist as it is Cessationist. Their application of their exegesis is indeed inconsistent (and tragically so for certain missions candidates). But, even if unintentionally, the exegetical ground beneath the controversy within the SBC has clearly shifted in a positive direction, just not far enough (yet).

Call me an "optimist" if you like, but I'm not a "blind optimist"--I'm a "see the big picture" optimist." Something of a significant incremental nature happened right under our eyes and, because it wasn't all some people wanted to see, they missed it completely.


Good insight from two brilliant Southern Baptist theologians.

Have a Great Weekend!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

IMB Policies Now Guidelines: Tuesday at the IMB

Yesterday, May 8, 2007 was a very busy day. In subsequent days I will post reflections on . . . (1). A visit to FBC, Independence, Missouri and her pastor, Dr. Kevin Payne, (2). A trip to the Harry S. Truman homeplace and Presidential Library and Museum (May 8 is the late President's birthday), (3). A great time of fellowship with Dr. Sam Storms of Kansas City and an experience of midnight worship with about 250 young people at the Kansas City International House of Prayer. IHOP began this 24/7 worship and prayer meeting on May 7, 1999 and it has continued unbroken, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for a total of eight years. Many thousands of young people have been pulled off the streets, converted from backgrounds of drug abuse, and now serve the KC community through IHOP. It may not be how you or I would do ministry, but one has to admire what God has done through IHOP and Pastor Mike Bickle to bring thousands to Christ, including many Kansas City Chiefs professional football players. (4). I will also post about one of the strangest conversations I have ever had with another human being. It was with a man who is a high priest in the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints -- now called "The Community of Christ" and it took place at the RCLDS headquartered outside Kansas City -- a conversation that led me to witness to this high priest on the essential nature of the atonement of Christ.

But the important information for today is what happened in the trustee plenary session of the International Mission Board on Tuesday night, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hilton Airport Hotel in Kansas City. Trustees approved the following report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Tongues and Baptism.

Report of the Mission Personnel Ad Hoc Committee
May 2007

In March of 2006 an ad hoc committee of Mission Personnel Committee received the charge to revisit the approved board policy on tongues and prayer language and the approved board guideline on baptism, both adopted in November 2005. The ad hoc committee has met over the past year during board meetings as well as a two-day special meeting to consider the vast amount of material gathered from leaders, scholars, and pastors across our denomination. The committee solicited this material in an attempt to be faithful to its task. The committee has also spent considerable time praying, fasting, and seeking God’s heart on these issues. The committee has no desire to create further controversy. Rather, our desire is to bring this study to completion and allow the board to maintain its focus upon our world mission task.

The ad hoc committee has concluded that even though field related data and consultation with regional leaders has not indicated a systemic problem with charismatic practices among field personnel, the rapid spread of neo-pentecostalism and its pressure exacted on the new churches in various regions of the world warrants a concern for the clear Baptist identity of our missionary candidates. Furthermore, the diversity of denominational backgrounds among missionary candidates requires a clear baptism guideline to guide the work of our candidate consultants as they consider the qualifications of candidates.

Therefore, we recommend that the full board adopt the following two guidelines to replace Policy 200-15 and Guideline 200-3a. The Mission Personnel Committee approved this recommendation on March 20, 2007 by a three-fourths majority.

Guideline on Tongues and Prayer Language


1. The New Testament speaks of a gift of glossolalia that generally is considered to be a legitimate language.
2. The New Testament expression of glossolalia as a gift had specific uses and conditions for its exercise in public worship.
3. In terms of worship practices, if glossolalia is a public part of the candidate’s current practice and it does not fall within the definitions of Parts 1 & 2 above, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.


1. Any spiritual experience must be tested by Scriptures.
2. New Testament teaching is that prayer is to be made with understanding.
3. The board is not persuaded that ecstatic utterance as a prayer language is a valid expression of the New Testament teaching on prayer.
4. Therefore, if an “ecstatic utterances as a prayer language” is a part of the candidate’s current practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.


1. This guideline is not retroactive.
2. Any exceptions to the above guideline must be reviewed by the staff and the Mission Personnel Committee.

Proposed Guideline on Baptism

THAT each candidate’s baptismal experience be examined, during the application process, in light of the Baptist Faith and Message statement and the points listed below:

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper. 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, Article VII


1. The individual

a. Believer’s baptism by immersion.
Baptism by immersion follows salvation.
b. Baptism is symbolic, picturing the experience of the believer’s death to sin and resurrection to a new life in Christ.
Baptism does not regenerate.

2. The Church

a. Baptism is a church ordinance.

Baptism must take place under the authority of a local church that practices believer’s baptism alone, embraces the doctrine of the security of a believer’s salvation and does not view baptism as sacramental, regenerative or essential to salvation.

b. A candidate who has not been baptized under the authority of a local church which meets the standards listed above is expected to request baptism in his or her Southern Bapist church.

3. The Candidate

The candidate is responsible for requesting their home church to assist them in meeting this doctrinal commitment to the above points.

4. The Consultant

While the candidate consultant should have a working knowledge of many denominational groups, he or she is not expected to investigate every church.


1. The guideline is not retroactive.
Any exception to the above guideline must be reviewed by staff and the Mission Personnel Committee.

(End of Ad Hoc Committee Report)

The debate that occurred on the adoption of these guidelines was cordial. People spoke on both sides of the issue. After about 45 minutes of debate, the guidelines were approved. Because of the vote tonight, the former policy on private prayer language is now, with the baptism guideline, a guideline, and not a policy.

I spoke only once during the debate and made the following two points and concluded my remarks by asking a question of Paul Chitwood, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee.

The First Point I Made: The rationale for the guidelines states that there is not 'a systemic problem with charismatic practices among field personnel', but the committee felt it necessary to adopt the private prayer language guideline. I pointed out that The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the Abstract of Principles, and the 1925 and 1963 Baptist Faith and Message are all silent regarding a specific interpretation on the gifts of the Spirit, and to go beyond our major confessions and demand a specific doctrinal interpretation on a matter not addressed in the BFM should be the sole responsibility of our entire convention, and not the trustees of the IMB. I also expressed concern that we were being asked to vote on the guidelines without hearing from the Regional Leaders of the IMB on what they thought of the new policies. One trustee, John Click of Kansas, had asked, prior to me speaking, that Rodney Hammer, a Regional Leader for the IMB be allowed to speak, but the chair ruled that request out of order. John Floyd was very gracious in his spirit when he ruled the motion out of order, but I was confused as to why it was said there was no 'systemic problem,' and the RL's were not allowed to address the full trustee board before we voted, but yet we felt the need to establish a guideline prohibiting 'prayer language' from those wishing to serve as missionaries for the SBC. I asked, again, if it was wise for us as a trustee board, or any SBC board for that matter, to press beyond our confessional statement and exclude people who affirm the BFM 2000, but disagree on specific interpretations of doctrines not addressed by the BFM 2000. If a ban of private prayer language is needed on DOCTRINAL grounds, since there is no anecdotal evidence that a problem exists on the field among personnel, then maybe we should wait for the SBC to speak on the matter.

The Second Point I Made: I also said that though the baptism guideline was worded better than the original one voted on in November 2005, the new baptism guideline, unfortunately, still made the baptism of a believer an identification with a specific church and not Jesus Christ. However, since there was no alternative to the proposed guidelines, nor a recommendation to rescind the November 2005 policies, at least it was a step in the right direction. I, again, cautioned us as trustees that implementing any doctrinal standard that exceeds the BFM, though we can do it as trustees, just might not be the wisest thing to do.

I then asked my question:

What is the difference between a policy and a guideline?

Dr. Floyd pointed out that this question was asked yesterday, and then said, "Wade, you must have not been in the meeting to hear the answer." I didn't have the heart to tell Dr. Floyd publicly that I was in the meeting, and it was I who had asked the question yesterday, but the question and response occured in the closed door forum, and it was best for us as a convention that the answer be on the record since other Southern Baptists could not hear the answer in the closed door meeting.

Matt Bristol, Attorney for the IMB was called upon to answer the question, as he was also asked to do in the forum yesterday. He said a policy is 'dogmatic' and a 'guideline' is flexible in its implementation. Later, the attorney said that functionally there was no difference, but that the word guideline conveys a spirit of flexibility (the word he wished to emphasize) in the application of the policy.

After further discussion, all in a good spirit, the vote was taken and the new 'guidelines' passed.

I have tried to give you simply the facts of what occurred without going into any commentary. I am pleased, however, that progress is being made to understand that there are different viewpoints on these matters within the SBC and for us to function as a cooperating convention, we must not exclude anyone from missionary cooperation and participation those who disagree on tertiary doctrines like the authority of the baptizer and the importance of what a person does in his private prayer closet.

All the officers of the IMB were reelected without opposition.

I pray that we as trustees of the IMB will put this matter behind us, focus on the mission challenges ahead of us, and trust that, in the providence of God, all that has occurred in these last two years on the board has been good and healthy for us all.

I'll blog tomorrow night about the most important part of this trustee meeting -- the commissioning service.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson